Over the coming weeks, North Media will analyse the 2021 seasons of every player on the list.
To see all the reviews so far, click here.
16. Aiden Bonar
10 games; 10.7 disposals, 3.6 marks, 1.6 tackles, 84.1 per cent disposal efficiency, 4.2 one percenters, 4.2 intercepts per game.
After moving into the defence at the back end of the 2020 season, Aiden Bonar managed to attack the 2021 pre-season with the knowledge of a potential permanent role change.
Working closely with Jy Simpkin to improve his running capacity heading into campaign, the former Giant was primed and ready to go by the time Round 1 rolled around and hit the ground running in a makeshift North backline.
Often tasked with silencing the most athletic player in an opposition’s forward line, he impressed playing on the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Ollie Wines, and Christian Petracca as they rotated through the forward 50.
Playing the first eight games of the season, Bonar suffered an ankle injury against Collingwood in Round 9, and underwent surgery to repair the issue.
He made his return to action via the VFL, and was even called upon to play as a makeshift centre half-back at times. The senior side welcomed him back into the fold ahead of Round 21’s clash with Richmond, where he went on to play the final three games of the season.
Bonar showed immense potential as an athletic, mid-sized defender in the first half of the season, before injury halted his progress. Should he have another strong pre-season and injury free run, he’s firming as a strong defensive option for David Noble going forward.
Round 5 v Geelong
20 disposals, 6 marks, 4 score involvements, 12 intercepts, 90 per cent disposal efficiency.
A strong first half of the year saw Aiden Bonar rewarded with a new contract, tying the promising defender to Arden Street for the foreseeable future.
The fans said:
Post Game Day Thoughts, Aiden Bonar has been outstanding this season. Looking stronger, exciting disposal and lockdown abilities thoroughly improved. Excited for his future— Hayden Stringer (@stringerHYDN) April 12, 2021
The coaches said:
“He (Bonar)set up his season really well with a good pre-season and turned up to the club as fit as he’s ever been. That transferred straight into his game and he was playing some significant roles as a lockdown defender against some of the best forwards in the competition. The injuries set him back a long way, but he got himself going well again at the end of the year. Without injury we’re looking for a real step up again next year for Aiden.” - John Blakey (defensive coach).
17. Lachie Young
13 games; 12.9 disposals, 4.5 marks, 1.8 tackles, 3.2 one percenters, 3.6 intercepts per game.
When first appointed as senior coach, David Noble consistently spoke about his desire to bring more speed into the club’s defensive and midfield options, and Lachie Young brought that in spades.
A capable half-back flanker or wing player, Young spent much of his time in the senior team playing up the ground on the wing, adding a more offensive string to his bow.
An ever present in the side at the start of the year, he played the first 12 games of the season before missing Round 14.
He was recalled to the side for the side in the Round 15 victory over Gold Coast, but spent the remainder of the season honing his craft at VFL level.
Taking on a much more attacking role at reserve level, he performed well with 18 disposals in the win over Port Melbourne, and 19 disposals against Footscray.
Impressing with his aggressiveness and courage over the course of the season, the 22-year-old will be looking forward to a full pre-season to once again push his case for consistent senior football.
Round 1 v Port Adelaide
14 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 8 intercepts, 85.7 per cent disposal efficiency, 5 one percenters.
Showing true courage to run back with the flight of the ball, Lachie Young’s influence on the contest so late in the game secured North’s first win of the season.
The fans said:
Jeez what a win. Lachie young going back with the flight in the last minute was match winning. ????— Batesy (@mitch23bates) May 15, 2021
The coaches said:
“His ability to go back or set up on a wing is a testament to how good his fitness and work-rate are. He’s great in the air and the ability to get back and intercept mark or spoil is a real feature of his game. He’s been challenged around his offensive involvements, and he started to show some really good form in the VFL at the back end of the year around linking up, getting involved and averaging 18, 20 possessions. He’s got a damaging kick so the ability to make really strong decisions is an area he’s continuing to chop away at. I’m expecting him to have a really good pre-season and hit the ground running in 2022.” - Jordan Russell (midfield coach).
18. Shaun Atley
19 games, 1 goal; 18.1 disposals, 5.6 marks, 1.4 tackles, 81.4 per cent disposal efficiency, 3.5 intercepts per game.
North Melbourne’s Mr. Consistent over the past few years, Shaun Atley’s ability to stay fit and influential was once again on full show in 2021.
Playing in North’s first 18 games of the season, he had played 216 out of a possible 219 games before his omission in Round 20, returning for the Round 23 clash with Adelaide.
An imperative piece of North’s defence in the early part of the season, his experienced presence in the absence of the likes of Robbie Tarrant and Aidan Corr helped pave the way forward for his young teammates in the back half of the ground.
Once again proving to be a strong influence on both sides of the football, his run and carry out of the defensive half of the ground offered a consistent threat throughout the year, while his defensive instincts saw him maintain his threat as an intercept player.
Round 4 v Adelaide
18 disposals, 5 marks, 8 intercepts, 83.3 per cent disposal efficiency.
Starting his career as a dangerous, quick forward option, Shaun Atley wound back the clock to finish off a great team move against the Demons.
The coaches said:
“You can’t underestimate the voice our senior players have, and when we had a few players missing Shaun really stepped up in that regard. He’s able to direct and set up for is which is really important, and then his experience allows him to play some good footy off the back of that. Another solid year from Shaun.” - John Blakey (defensive coach).
19. Josh Walker
21 games, 3 goals; 12.2 disposals, 5.4 marks, 4.2 one percenters, 4.8 intercepts per game.
The most versatile key-position player on North Melbourne’s list, Josh Walker trained as a forward for much of pre-season, before the unavailability of Robbie Tarrant and Aidan Corr forced him back into defence.
It was in partnership with Ben McKay where he thrived, often arriving late to impact the contest through massive spoils, or strong contested marks.
Walker played every game of the season, bar Round 4’s clash with Adelaide which he missed through hamstring tightness.
It was Round 17’s victory over West Coast where Walker impressed most though, combining with Ben McKay and Tarrant to blanket the Eagles’ tall trio of Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling and Oscar Allen in front of a raucous Perth crowd.
With Charlie Comben coming into the side for Round 22, Walker played all across the ground in order to back Todd Goldstein up in the ruck, and moved back into the forward line for the Round 23 clash with Adelaide.
Walker can lay a strong claim to being North’s ‘Mr. Fix It’ across the 2021 campaign, with his ability and willingness to play a multitude of roles one of the things that makes him so important to the Kangaroos, and so popular amongst his teammates.
Round 17 v West Coast
11 disposals, 6 marks, 2 tackles, 10 intercepts, 8 one per centers.
The fans said:
This guy was awesome, well done Josh Walker on giving Darling a bath. ???????? Awesome night for all the boys— Kaz (@Kazzaroo3533) July 13, 2021
The coaches said:
“Down back he has a great ability to intercept or come across and spoil. He’s really strong in those aerial contests. He’s rarely beaten as a defender and he’s another one who had a really solid year.” - John Blakey (defensive coach).